La Salle Martyrs to Be Beatified

Postulator Explains the Circumstances of Their Martyrdom

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

By H. Sergio Mora

ROME, FEB. 14, 2012 ( The Church has recognized the martyrdom of a numerous group of La Salle religious who worked in schools in Spain, and who will soon be beatified.

In this interview with ZENIT, the postulator of their cause, Brother Rodolfo Meoli, explains the circumstances of the life and death of these martyrs.

Brother Meoli, postulator general since 1995 of this group of brothers, is handling the case of the Servants of God who will be the new Spanish martyrs, thanks to the decrees on their martyrdom promulgated by Benedict XVI last Dec. 19.

ZENIT: Why are these religious called martyrs of the Civil War?

Brother Meoli: Be careful, there is a notable error in calling them «martyrs of the Civil War,» an error that even some in the Church make. In canonical terms, there are no «martyrs of Civil Wars.» Christian martyrs are those killed for fidelity to their religious beliefs. In fact, the religious persecution began in Spain in 1931, and the Civil War not until 1936.

ZENIT: So there were attacks before 1936?

Brother Meoli: A great number of Church buildings were attacked and set on fire in 1931, including the most important school of the La Salle Brothers, the school Las Maravillas of Madrid. Moreover, some brothers who were canonized by Pope John Paul II — I say canonized, because there was a miracle after their beatification — were killed in Turón, Asturias, in 1934.

Then the Civil War followed and the killings continued and even worsened. At times things get somewhat mixed up and from this stems the mistake I just mentioned. It is the task of canonical processes to demonstrate with documents and testimonies the solely religious reasons that caused so many deaths.

ZENIT: Were the religiuos we are speaking of martyred before or during the Civil War?

Brother Meoli: They were martyred in 1937, at the height of the Civil War, the years in which the attacks on religious sharply increased and in which there was the greatest number of victims.

ZENIT How were you able to distinguish those who were genuine martyrs?

Brother Meoli: We cannot rule out that in some cases political vengeance was also a motive. As I mentioned, the canonical processes are designed to clarify the motives of the murders. No doubt before cases of attacks on cloistered convents and the murder of very young or elderly nuns it is rather difficult to demonstrate that the reasons were political. It was also the case that the killers went to look for priests and nuns and let the laypeople go who did not openly oppose their violence. This is a further demonstration that it was a religious persecution.

ZENIT: This beatification is truly a battalion of martyrs.

Brother Meoli: Yes indeed, we have already had the beatification together of 58 of our religious. In any case, this will be a beautiful beatification. There are two groups, the first of 25 martyrs, 16 of whom were Brothers of the Christian Schools and nine Carmelites of the Old Observance, headed by Father Alberto Maria Marco Aleman, while the others were eight young novices between 18-25 years of age.

ZENIT: Were they all from Madrid?

Brother Meoli: We call them of Madrid because the two diocesan processes were held there, but not all of them were from there.

Seven of them worked in the Bruno publishing house of Madrid. The militiamen invaded it wanting to know where the weapons were concealed. This was the usual pretext to invade houses. Then they took three others as well who had sought refuge there and took them to the «Casa del Campo,» where they were shot. Their bodies were horribly disfigured.

Others were taken earlier to prison and then, in small groups, led to isolated and hidden places, where the executions were carried out by people recruited from other places. Many times it was impossible to identify them, because they were killed in such a way that they were unrecognizable. Of some, even the place of martyrdom and burial is unknown.

ZENIT: And the other group?

Brother Meoli: There was another group of brothers in charge of the formation of young people. When they realized that danger was approaching, they accompanied the youths to their homes. Some of these were followed and killed mercilessly.

ZENIT: And what about the layman who reacted to the shooting of an image of the Virgin?

Brother Meoli: There was also a numerous group from Griñón, a place close to Madrid. There were 23 of them, 21 of whom were brothers plus a chaplain and a layman. The first one to die crying out «Hail Christ the King» was, in fact, the layman. They were all killed in front of the chapel and buried in the vegetable garden next door.

Those of the Sacred Heart, instead, were taken to the prison of San Antón, were they were held for almost four months. Sentenced by a so-called people’s court, it was enough to demonstrate that they were religious to sentence them to death.

ZENIT: Are there any more numbers on the persecution of your Institute?

Brother Meoli: At that time, at least 275 La Salle Brothers were imprisoned.

Of these, 165 were killed and of them 155 were included in the diocesan processes and are reaching, little by little, the glory of beatification.

ZENIT: What does it mean for the La Salle Brothers today to have these martyrs?

Brother Meoli: They are the most important testimony of fidelity to their religious vocation. It is added to religious profession after a call to which, after years of reflection and study, one responds from the depth of one’s soul. All the rest, including possible martyrdom, is a consequence.

ZENIT: How many brothers are there today in the Christian Schools?

Brother Meoli: Almost 5,000 brothers (not priests) dedicated to the education of youth. Working with us are some 80,000 teachers, in 82 countries, in approximately 1,000 institutions, which go from kindergarten up to university.

[Translation by ZENIT]
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation